Longford teen refused bail for imitation firearm charge

‘No other option’: Judge expresses extreme concern at lack of parental support in court

Jessica Thompson

Reporter:

Jessica Thompson

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jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie

Longford teen refused bail for imitation firearm charge

A Longford teenager charged with being in possession of an imitation firearm has been refused bail following a lengthy application at Longford District Court last week in the absence of his parents.

Judge Marie Keane remanded the 17-year-old, who cannot be named due to his age, in custody to Oberstown Children Detention Centre until September 22, after expressing concern that the boy’s parents had not accompanied him to court.

The teen was granted bail on the imitation firearm charge on July 23 after he appeared at Mullingar District Court before Judge Seamus Hughes. However, that bail was revoked at a special sitting of Longford District Court on August 26 due to what prosecuting Sgt Paddy McGirl described as a “disregard of bail terms”.

“One charge before him is a section 9 (i) of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, and first appeared in November 2019,” explained Sgt McGirl.

“He has had three arrest warrants for breach of bail. One on March 3, one on May 19 and one on June 9. After the most recent one, he went into custody for a week and was released on bail on June 16. Judge Hughes said that if he committed any further offences, he would give him a six month sentence.

“He appeared at a special sitting of Longford District Court on August 23 for a Section 9 (a) Firearms and Offensive Weapon offence. That’s possession of an imitation firearm,” said Sgt McGirl.

As part of his bail conditions, the teen was to sign on every Friday and Sunday between 9am and 6pm and to abide by a curfew of 9pm to 9am.

“A fourth arrest warrant was issued on August 26 and all matters were reentered and bail revoked in respect of all charges,” said Sgt McGirl.

“He has been granted bail on different occasions but there have been recent breaches of bail conditions since July 23, where he did not abide by his curfew.”

Sgt McGirl explained that gardaí called to the teen’s home address on July 28 at 10.40pm but the youth was not there.

Gardaí called again on August 6 at 12.01am but the teen was not present. He was again not present on August 21 when gardaí called to the house at 10.50pm.

And, when gardaí called to the family home on August 23 at 11.10pm, the teenager was once again not present.

Sgt McGirl added that there were also a list of sign-on breaches, with the teen failing to sign on as required on July 31, August 7, August 9, August 14, August 16, August 21 and August 23.

Solicitor for the accused explained to the court that her client was 17 years old and had spent the previous two weeks in Oberstown Detention Centre.

“My instructions are that he will comply with any and all conditions if he is given bail. He has learned his lesson in custody,” she told Sgt Declan McGlynn who had been sworn in to give evidence.

“His history doesn’t allow me to accept that. It took four arrest warrants to get him there,” said Sgt McGlynn.

“My instructions are that he’d sign on daily and obey a curfew and any restrictions,” said Ms Cronin.

“He just doesn’t have a good track record,” Sgt McGlynn replied.

“Would a short remand appease your fears?” Ms Cronin asked.

“No,” Sgt McGlynn insisted.

Garda David Buckley, who arrested the teen when he was found with a pellet gun on July 22, explained that the youth had told him that he’d bought the pellet gun at a local shop just 20 minutes before being stopped by gardaí.

“It was a pellet gun he had purchased in a shop in Longford,” Ms Cronin said.

“He said in his interview that he purchased it off his cousin,” said Gda Buckley.

“But his cousin bought it in Denniston’s. It was a pellet gun, albeit a very authentic-looking one. When he was arrested, it was in his pocket,” said Ms Cronin.

Sgt McGirl explained that, in his interview, the teen had stated he had bought the pellet gun at a shop in Longford town, prompting garda enquiries.

“They (the shop owners) said they don’t sell a gun of that type and not in the last hour as (the accused) had said to me,” said Gda Buckley.

“He said when I spoke to him on the side of the road that he had bought it in the shop 20 minutes ago. I asked them in the shop and they hadn’t sold it to him.”

Sgt McGirl explained that the state would be strongly opposed to bail.

“Due to his attitude to bail in the past, he would not comply. He has been given bail before and, in fact, his record has deteriorated in the last few weeks. He has no regard for bail,” said Sgt McGirl.

Defending solicitor, Ms Cronin’s application was for bail with strict conditions, with which, she assured the court, her client would comply.

“He has spent two weeks in custody. He’s a juvenile. It has been a learning curve for him,” she explained.

“I would ask for strict conditions with a short remand to allow him the opportunity to prove he will comply.

“The state are saying my client will not comply. I am asking the court to allow him to prove that he will comply. He realises the position he is in and what will happen if he doesn’t comply.”

Having heard the evidence, Judge Keane raised her concerns for the teen’s lack of regard for bail conditions, and the fact that his parents were not present in court.

“He has had numerous opportunities to abide by conditions set by the court,” she said.

“The court must be satisfied that the accused is capable of meeting the conditions. I note there are no parent in court. How can I possibly take the word of this young man who has done everything and anything except abide by conditions?

“Gardaí called to your house in all hours of darkness and you weren’t there. So I wonder who is supposed to be looking after you? You signed a bond and you clearly don’t understand it,” she said, addressing the teenager directly.

“My father is very sick, Your Honour, and my mother is at home minding the kids. If you give me one more chance, I will comply. I just need one more chance. Two weeks taught me a lesson,” the youth pleaded.

“What is the situation with his parents?” Judge Keane asked of Ms Cronin.

Ms Croning explained that the young man’s father is unwell and that there are 16 children in the family in total, many of whom are small.

“So there is difficulty for the parents looking after the children, but they have appeared on previous occasions to support him,” she said.

Having heard the evidence, Judge Keane decided against granting bail to the teenager.

“I’m satisfied in these circumstances that I have no other option than to refuse bail,” she said.

“These are serious offences. I am very concerned that there is no supervision here. He clearly doesn’t understand and is getting no direction from his parents.”

Judge Keane then remanded the teen in custody to Oberstown. He will reappear on September 22 when his solicitor said hewill be entering a plea.